Grace Mitchell

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Past Exhibits

The origin stories of a great many human societies tell of folks once living happily in a primordial paradise, a lush garden/world of peace and plenty where toil, want and conflict are unknown. Here we have imaged this world mostly through the monotheistic traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Christians learn about the Garden of Eden and similarities exist in Jewish and Islamic traditions. But from the Ancient Greeks to Taoist China, through Mesoamerica and in diverse cultures from Africa, Iceland, India and Australia, such stories are part of old traditions. Scholars may argue forever about the meaning of this apparent universality of belief, but there is little doubt that it does exist, and I think, points to something shared that might be called wisdom. But, as with the Christian story of the Garden of Eden, the stories sometimes also report the end of this paradisal existence due to human folly.

Faced with the grim follies of our times, and having a life-long interest in gardening and a recently developed interest in the incredible potential of municipal composting, I have decided recently to paint gardens. But the gardens I choose are the “natural” and wild gardens, rather than our standard suburban flower patches. The gardens of the wild, with their mix of native plants and trees, are the model. Today many people are thinking/teaching/practicing a form of home gardening which endeavors to replicate native conditions and incorporate some ancient wisdom into the practice of gardening to encourage, rather than kill, vital insect and bird/animal populations which are rapidly declining due to agribusiness, development pressures and yes, even suburban gardens (see Kimmerer, Oudolf, Tallamy, etc.). I hope that the paintings somehow evoke the sense of paradise and suggest a way towards, perhaps, “back to the garden” as Joni Mitchell wrote, but also forward to a replanting, both literally and metaphorically, of the paradise garden/world.

Hence the title “Roots and Seeds”. In people as well as plants, roots run deeply and support growth, history, tradition in the garden/world. Seeds make new growth and development possible. In many ways, we humans have made a real mess of things. But perhaps that does not have to be the end of the story. As someone once wrote “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” (attributed to Audrey Hepburn). From urban balconies and neighborhood gardens to suburban tracts and exurban estates, we can all sow some seeds, lend a hand to native flora and fauna and become a positive force to keep the story going for a while longer.